Romantic School: Juilliard Couples


Sweaty dancers, long rehearsals, tiny practice rooms … Who would have thought that Juilliard could be a hotbed for romance? It’s true that dating in such a tiny community is a risk. (What if the guy who just dumped you is the principal of your section in orchestra? And you really don’t want to be paired with your ex in ballroom dancing class.) Here are seven Juilliard couples who took the chance.  —Interviews conducted by Journal Editorial Assistant Molly Yeh (B.M. ’11, percussion)

Jacob Fishel and Rutina Wesley-Fishel

Jacob Fishel (B.F.A. ’05, dramaand Rutina Wesley-Fishel (Diploma ’05, drama)

The Zaslavs

Naomi Civkin Zaslav (46, piano) and Bernard Zaslav (Diploma 46, violin)

Susan Lang Eddlemon and Scott Eddlemon

Susan Lang Eddlemon (B.M. ’71, M.M. ’72, D.M.A. ’80, violinand Scott Eddlemon (B.M. ’77, percussion)

Sarah Adriance and Paul Witthorne

Paul Witthorne (B.F.A. ’95, drama) and Sarah Adriance (B.F.A. ’95, dance; staff)

Annika Sheaff and Luke Rinderknecht

Luke Rinderknecht (B.M. ’05, M.M. ’07,percussion; staff) and Annika Sheaff (B.F.A. ’06, dance)

Mahira Kakkar and Ben Wojdak

Mahira Kakkar (Diploma ’04, dramaand Ben Wojdak (’04, dance)

Peter Schickele and Susan Sindall

Susan Sindall (Diploma ’60, dance) and Peter Schickele (M.S. ’60, composition)


Bernard Zaslav (Diploma 46, violin) and Naomi Civkin Zaslav (46, piano)
Palo Alto, Calif.

Where was your first date? 
I asked Naomi to lunch at the Dutch Mill Inn, around the corner [from 122 Claremont Avenue in Morningside Heights, where Juilliard was then located]. Three courses cost 35 cents.

Did the stress of schoolwork ever make things difficult for the relationship? 
Schoolwork was far from stressful; it was more of a lark, with all of the musical happenings going on in New York. My violin teacher, Mischa Mischakoff, did say that I had “puoysoned fingerz” and that I would “never play wioleen,” but thankfully he was wrong, and I went on to study viola with him.

Do you have any romantic stories that happened at Juilliard? 
When I wanted to carry my new wife off to Cleveland with me, Mme. [Rosina] Lhévinne said it was O.K. for us to marry, but Naomi would have to finish her studies at school while I was to visit on weekends. That didn’t happen; we now have a 63-year-old son and have made a career as a duo.

How did you find time for each other during a busy day at Juilliard? 
We probably practiced less and enjoyed learning about each other more. 

Did your teachers know you were dating? 
I think they got the drift of it.

Susan Lang Eddlemon (B.M. ’71, M.M. ’72, D.M.A. ’80, violin) and Scott Eddlemon (B.M. ’77, percussion)
Knoxville, Tenn.

How did you meet? 
We were assigned to play a piece for percussion and violin together on a concert put together by Scott’s percussion teacher, Saul Goodman, in May 1975.

Do you ever perform together? 
We started a new music series in Oak Ridge, Tenn., four years ago, called Isotone: A Collision of Physics and Music. Most concerts, including a recent concert in New York City at the Peter Norton Symphony Space celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary, involve the two of us playing together.

Do you have any romantic stories that happened at Juilliard? 
We took Mme. [Renée] Longy’s ear training class together as another way to be with each other. Mme. Longy, though a tough teacher, had a soft spot in her heart for us. She gave us a pewter dish as a wedding present, which we have to this day.

Did your teachers know you were dating? 
Yes. Saul Goodman was quite pleased. Sue’s teacher, Joseph Fuchs (Diploma ’20, violin), was less so, as he was quite protective of his students. During one brief interlude at his violin studio, Mr. Fuchs made an unexpected early arrival. Scott hid behind the curtains until Sue’s accompanist distracted Mr. Fuchs long enough for Scott to escape unnoticed.

Jacob Fishel (B.F.A. ’05, drama) and Rutina Wesley-Fishel (Diploma ’05, drama)
New York and Los Angeles

How did you meet? 
We were in the same class (Group 34), and for some reason, we kept being cast opposite each other throughout our first year. Both of us were extremely passionate about our work but had very different approaches. Rutina was very intuitive and spontaneous, while I tended to be more studious and cerebral. We didn’t really see eye-to-eye at first, but being forced to work together ultimately allowed us to realize that we had so much to learn from each other. 

Did the stress of schoolwork ever make things difficult for the relationship?
The stress of school made everything difficult. Everything. But having your best friend going through the same experience was invaluable, and every difficulty ultimately brought us closer together.

What kind of music (or other performance) did you have at your wedding? 
No performances so to speak, but Shakespeare was quoted a time or two.

Did your teachers know you were dating? 
Yes, and when one of us didn’t show up to class they always asked the other one if they knew where the other one was. It was a little complicated at first, but we really learned how to be in the room as a professional couple and work together, skills that greatly serve us still today. 

Sarah Adriance (B.F.A. ’95, dance; staff) and Paul Witthorne (B.F.A. ’95, drama)
New York City

How did you guys meet? 
On the third floor. I lived with one of his classmates and we were in the same circle of friends. 

Do you ever perform together? 
No, not unless you consider parenting a performance, which it sometimes is. There’s lots of improvisation, certainly.

Did the stress of schoolwork ever make things difficult for the relationship? 
The Dance Division started early and Drama went late. Some days we only saw each other for a few minutes in the hall and some days we were able to meet for lunch. This was before cell phones, so making last-minute plans was difficult. 

Do you have any romantic stories that happened at Juilliard? 
Post-Juilliard, part of how we arrived at Agatha for our daughter’s name was a nod to Augustus Juilliard, who you could argue brought us together. 

Did your teachers know you were dating? 
Yes. We broke up for a few days during our senior year, and I got kicked out of Héctor Zaraspe’s ballet class for weeping through barre. 

Annika Sheaff (B.F.A. ’06, dance) and Luke Rinderknecht (B.M. ’05, M.M. ’07, percussion; staff)
Astoria, Queens

How did you meet? 
We met when I came to get cleaning supplies from the 11th-floor lounge. Luke was an R.A. [resident assistant] and I was a clueless first-year. I remember thinking he was very handsome. 

Did the stress of schoolwork ever make things difficult for the relationship? 
One of the things that made me sure Annika was the one was that our relationship was a solution to stress and not the cause of it.

Do you have any romantic stories that happened at Juilliard? 
For Luke’s birthday, I had my girlfriends learn a dance that I made for him and we danced it in Studio 323 for him. One of the dancers brought in a chocolate cake for the grand finale.

What kind of music or other performance did you have at your wedding? 
Luke put together all the music for our wedding. There was an amazing brass arrangement; two great friends of mine danced a piece called “L.O.V.E.” that I choreographed at school, and I got to throw the bouquet from my dance partner’s shoulders in the move we called “2 high.”

Annika choreographed our first dance, and our guests seemed impressed when she was the one lifting me up in the air.

Mahira Kakkar (Diploma ’04, drama) and Ben Wojdak (’04, dance)
New York City

How did you meet? 
I started noticing him because he was always sitting in the cubbyhole near the Walter Reade Theater [with a] grin large enough to split his face in two, and I thought, “He’s definitely not from New York.” Unfortunately, I started smoking at school, and Ben was miraculously always there to offer me a smoke. 

Do you have any romantic stories from Juilliard? 
He saw me in an absolutely execrable play in which I played a hula-hooping, roller-skating, blue-afro-wearing, circus performer with a wind-up monkey strapped to her leg. I also had to make out with my best girlfriend while doing all this. I asked him what he thought, and he just smiled and said, “Baby, you did a good job.” It was such an utterly awful piece. And he knew that I knew that he knew that and was so gracious about it. He is [still] my best audience and critic. 

Did the stress of schoolwork ever make things difficult for the relationship? 
Absolutely. In my fourth year, I was run-down and Ben was always there for me, but it was hard on him, too. What was hardest was when he was in his third year and was asked to leave, and I believed I could help him stay on. However, he’d made up his mind that he didn’t want to dance anymore. That was difficult; I loved watching him and I thought he looked like Nureyev when he leapt. But he is following his childhood dream of being in the U.S. military, and he was recently promoted. 

Peter Schickele (M.S. ’60, composition) and Susan Sindall (Diploma ’60, dance)
New York City and Woodstock, N.Y.

How did you meet? 
Through our mutual friend Philip Glass (Diploma ’60, M.S. ’62, composition). Although we got to know each other somewhat during our final year at Juilliard, we didn’t date until after we had graduated. 

Where was your first date? 
I had spent the year after graduation in California. Susan and I had corresponded with each other, and when I got back to New York, I took her to a diner on the other side of the George Washington Bridge and presented her with a large metal button that depicted Pan playing his pipes.

Do you ever perform together? 
Susan and I had a program called “The Condition of My Heart,” which combined her poetry and my songs. 

How did you find time for each other during a busy day at Juilliard? 
I remember Susan hanging out at the unofficial composers’ and conductors’ table in the Juilliard cafeteria. Even dancers eat some lunch.

What kind of music (or other performance) did you have at your wedding? 
We were married in Stonington, Conn., where Susan’s parents lived. I chose the music, [but] all I can remember now is one of the movements from Olivier Messiaen’s The Ascension and a spritely piece by Purcell, which the organist played so slowly that I hardly recognized it.

This article has been amended to reflect the following correction: In the printed version of this piece, the interview with Bernard Zaslav stated that a three-course lunch at the Dutch Mill Inn cost 75 cents; it was 35 cents.

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